Sunday, January 11, 2009

Problems I don't need

WELLESLEY, by Royal Doulton: The offending stemware pattern.

This little receivership problem over at Waterford/Wedgwood, which also encompasses Royal Doulton, really hit home this week when I discovered, while attempting to replace several pieces of my stemware which tipsy guests destroyed (this is an etiquette discussion for another day), that the stem price at has literally shot through the roof. It does not help that this pattern, was discontinued a year after I was married. Now Royal Doulton Wellesley has become a rare commodity, which is a nightmare for yours truly (yes, this is the kind of nightmares The Hostess has. To each his own...).

When I was married, I had nine stemware groups, three in this pattern. I watched my parents deal with crystal and knew that breakage was a never-ending nuisance. Consequently, I went very far out of my way to find a reasonably priced pattern which would be little trouble to replace. I did not want to be the girl on the floor crying next to a piece of broken glass which had become irreplaceable. Indeed, the glasses in question were $24.99 - $29.99 each at Michael C. Fina. To give you a comparison as to just how reasonable I felt these were, my Tiffany stems were $95 a piece (and are still in make) and have not changed markedly in price. Here they are:

Tiffany and Co., Pearl

Now then, we are a military family and one of our households - the one where the Wellesley is stored - gets up and moves every 18 months. The glassware alone takes hours for the movers to deal with and never arrives entirely safely. And, as with any large glassware collection, the stems have varied storage situations with each new home. I accounted for all this in selecting these stems which were intended to be Sunday dinner items where the Tiffany is special occasion crystal exclusively.

Only now, the Royal Doulton second-string stems have eclipsed the Tiffany in price. And I have to tell you, when you hold the two in your hands, the Tiffany far exceeds Royal Doulton in great hand feel and aesthetic beauty. So, now I am just really annoyed. Anytime a company manufacturing in EU nations at less than preferable exchange rates discontinues a product and then announces their potential failure to exist altogether, you have serious pattern replacement issues coming your way. Not to mention expense. Don't let this happen to you. I have not yet approached my husband with the (obviously perfect) logic that at this point it would be wiser and more expedient to expand the Tiffany collection rather than replace the RD because it is now more costly and just not as awesome at the Tiffany. I am not looking forward to this conversation as said Naval officers eyes have always glazed over and rolled back in his head when any mention of patterns and tableware begins. And then he begins looking for his barware and related bottles, coincidentally.

Some advice for new brides and pattern buyers everywhere: Before you select the patterns for your registry, take the names down, head home, and do a little research:

1. Go to and query the manufacturer and pattern name. Mine had been around for sometime and unfortunately would not have yielded a clue it was to disappear after the wedding:

Item#: 81906
Manufacturer Status: Discontinued
Actual: 1991 - 2004

Be sure the pattern (also my Mother's, for continuity sake) has been around for some time. As you can see my sterling pattern has staying power, 65 years plus:

Item#: 110566
Manufacturer Status: Active Actual: 1941 -
Pattern: GRANDE BAROQUE (STERLING,1941) by WALLACE SILVER, Sterling [WASGRB] Pattern #: W106 Description: STERLING, 1941

2. When you query the pattern you are considering, also take note as to just how many replacement pieces are on hand. If there are very few, you should either register for enough to cover future losses or move on to something else. I wish I had registered for several more pieces in my pattern to account for breakage.

3. Have a quick look on ebay and other auction sites. If your pattern turns up for sale there a few times, you can feel safer there are multiple sources for replacement: I looked up my sterling just now, six pages of possibilities. I am not afraid of another fork inadvertently going into the trash.

4. Call the pattern expert at or your favorite crystal and sterling expert at any good antique house, explain that you intend to register for thus and such and do they have knowledge as to the general longevity of that manufacturer's patterns, the health of their business, etc? Insiders will generally have a good deal more information than the registry girl at Fina.

5. I am highly suspicious of all these fabulous designers and others contributing patterns to venerable houses: Vera Wang and Kate Spade, for two. I have to wonder if these patterns will have the legs the standards do or if this sort will be the first business-downturn or trend-driven cancellations even from healthier houses. My concerns here could be absolute rubbish but they are nonetheless mine and so I have no choice but to be diluted by them. You can choose your patterns though, as well as your delusions, as you wish.

Whether you or your guests make the investment into a pattern, it is worth doing the leg work to be sure you will easily be able to replace pieces when the time comes. Take it from me: Two flutes and four waters short of a full deck...


Mrs. Blandings said...

Ah. I, too, have Grand Baroque. She and I are always happy to see each other when I take her from the drawer. My crystal pattern is Waterford, and I'm pretty sure in good supply, though maybe I should stock up. I did replace my every day dishes with a Kate Spade pattern a few years ago and I have to tell you - it's long gone and even replacements doesn't have stock that often. Of course, it's what is broken most. At some point I'll have to decide if it's worth continuing the replacement pieces or just start from scratch.

It surely is a problem you don't need. Darn.

Blushing hostess said...

Glad to know I am not just imagining the possible downfall of all those pretty new patterns!

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Very, very, very well said. Good advice from every angle.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Our silver pattern is fiddle and thread ... mostly by Christofle (Chinon, if you must known) ... but we're happy to pick up any good-quality silver that looks almost identical and mix it in ... who would know?

columnist said...

Good advice indeed, but even those we thought were the most reliable, such as Waterford are now proving to be highly uncooperative. I found eBay very useful in that regard, however, so you might have luck there.